Smita Chavan K., Teacher, Christel House India
When I was a kid, my uncle always used to say, “Just planting a sapling is not enough, it needs to be nurtured well.” I’d almost forgotten those words until I met Suraj M.’s family at his home. I always felt that my worries were more challenging until I met Suraj’s family – an optically challenged ailing grandpa, an aging granny who still has to run the chores at home, an alcoholic father, and a mother who is mostly away from home due to regular quarrels with the father. Amidst all this, the only people Suraj can connect with are his Aaji (granny), his younger sibling Pooja, and a calf, which he bathes every day.
Only his granny seems delighted that her grandson is going to school. While pouring tea for me in the only cup they have in that shanty, she poured out her heart too. Suraj’s father is the only semi-literate person in their family and has studied till grade 4, after which he quit school and worked as a driver. “But he is drowned in alcohol now,” she wept her sorrow. Most people in that little remote village, which people know as Lavasa today, were not even aware what school meant. In such a situation, when Christel House Lavasa started its operations, like Suraj’s father, not many people were keen to send their kids to the school. Aaji told me in Marathi, “Those school-bus drivers were determined to take Suraj to school. And quite frankly, I too, was keen to send him to school. At least he would get something to eat during the day, that too for free. He was so lean three years back. Even now we cannot afford to feed him properly.”
And I just remembered the tiny tot hopping like a squirrel three years back. Suraj was actually very weak physically. But he had tons of enthusiasm to come to school and learn new things. Everyday he’d come running and hop on to my lap hugging me tight. Maybe he missed his mother’s affection. Three years down the line, with proper education, supplemented by good food and medical attention, Suraj has not only become healthier, but he is now sparkling like a rising Sun; his name signifies the rising sun (Suraj).
Aaji continued, “I don’t understand a word he speaks, but thanks to you teachers, he can talk in Vingraji (English) now. I just wish that someday he becomes a big Saaheb (Officer).” At that moment I was moved by Suraj’s suffering, but at the same time I felt proud that I was one of those teachers who could at least bring a smile to Aaji’s face. Earlier she had to worry about what to feed him, but now she can dream of Suraj becoming an officer.
When I shared Suraj’s plight with my co-teachers, I realized that there are many such kids in our school who have some or the other hardship to face. But due to the marvels that Christel House Lavasa has achieved in the past three years of its operation, now even the outlook of parents has changed. Now they send their children to the school for learning and not just for free food. They have understood the importance of education.
If within just four years of its operation, Christel House Lavasa could manage to make a difference in the way of thinking of parents, I’m confident that, with our continued efforts in nurturing these saplings, each of these children will grow to become a Saaheb in their future.